HANDSOME BRUTE – THE STORY OF A LADYKILLER BY SEAN O’CONNOR

Jeremy Thomas reviews Handsome Brute – The Story of a Ladykiller by Sean O’Connor.

This excellent book about  the infamous 1940’s murderer Neville Heath is published this week.

Handsome Brute is an apt title. Heath was a good-looking, well built, brave and charming WW2 RAF pilot who murdered two women, with such brutality that ‘war-hardened police officers vomited on seeing them’.

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THE SANTA MONICA SUICIDE CLUB

The roots of this novel are wrapped around the time when I kicked a heavy smoking habit. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Naturally it did not take place in Slough or Pinner but in the Pacific Palisades in 2000. To stay sane I wrote a short story about an English priest seconded to Santa Monica and coming up against gangsters in nearby Topanga Canyon.

I wrote two stories and along with many Trebor mint wrappers stuffed them into a drawer. Seven years later, I dug them out and put them in the blender and the S.M.S.C unfolded. Father Tony the priest is still there but has been nudged off the centre stage by a new character. M is a failed British actor turned private investigator based in Santa Monica. Hooked on Trebor mints, he drives an expensive old Swedish car and is desperate for cash, a decent case and female company. Like buses, three things come along at the same time.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO NED

Good things take time to come to fruition. This is a story about a Russian cat living in London who is the only witness to a grisly murder and kidnapping. Grandson of a genetically engineered cosmonaut cat, Ned is not an ordinary cat- which is highly convenient considering the nature of the villain he forces himself to pursue. The book is being developed as a graphic novel.

THE CHARLIE WALLER MEMORIAL TRUST

Due to co-writing ‘You don’t have to be famous to have manic depression…’ I was very fortunate to be invited to speak at a seminar on depression earlier this year. The event took place at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and was titled Depression and What You Need to Know. The other excellent speakers were Professor Roz Shafran and Doctor Brian Marien. To be among such great minds was a fascinating and humbling experience. Anyone in need of good practical help regarding depression and what to do about it, should check out www.cwmt.org. I am going to be giving more talks entitled ‘How to Stay Sane in an Insane World’ later this year.

TWO STEPS FORWARD

A play about an Englishman and American sharing a condemned cell in Afghanistan. They have been together in the cell for three years and become used to an amusing daily routine until one day they hear some bad news about their long term future. Plans are underway for a London production in 2011.

TALES OF ECCO

Jane with EccoDevastated to be bumped out of the leadership contest for the Liberal Conservative Coalition government, Ecco has enrolled in the London 2013 First Dog on Mars programme….A keen space enthusiast, Ecco has agreed to accompany Boris the Mayor of London, on a trip that will take in visits to Mars, the South of Saturn and of course, Sirius the dog star. Her training has already started…by accompanying HRH on a charity run on July 8th for Cancer Research RUN FOR LIFE… a highlight of the event was meeting the definitive Truman Capote actor, Toby Jones.

FILMS

To be recommended:
THE WHITE RIBBON
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO
I LOVED YOU SO LONG
FANTASTIC MR FOX

BOOKS

To be recommended:
HARUKI MURAKAMI –South of the Border, West of the Sun.
IAN RANKIN- Exit Music
BERYL BAINBRIDGE- The Bottle Factory
WENDY MOORE- Wedlock
RICHARD COLE- Stairway to Heaven.

HBO EUROPE HIJACKED BY MR MURDOCH

I did appeal to HBO to set up HBO Europe in my last posting here. Now it appears that Sky TV has grabbed the opportunity by backing the entire HBO back catalogue.

MOUSSAKA AND OTHER ANIMALS?

NINE MONTHS LATER…

Some people think it necessary to dump a blog onto the Internet every day. Not the author of this web site. We’ve got it down to a fine art of once every nine months.

Most extraordinary but no TV company has taken up my previous suggestion of launching a reality TV showwhere sub primal bankers, hedge fund managers, Berlusconi and Madoff & Co are given a multiple dunking in a slimy Russian lake on a pay to view broadcast basis every Sunday night after the Antiques Road Show.

THE SANTA MONICA SUICIDE CLUB is in its final few months of gestation and looking good on the ultra scan. It’s going to be a boy but one with a girl’s name. No more information until February 2010.

It’s never a good idea to read too much when writing a novel but here are three books I would recommend:

RAYMOND CHANDLER – A BIOGRAPHY by Tom Hiney.

Fascinating to read about Chandler’s early life, his subsequent battles with alcohol, and devoted obsessive love for his wife Cissy. And that his first novel, The Big Sleep was not published until he was 51. Also that he attended Dulwich College, the same school as the great PG Wodehouse

THE LADY IN THE LAKE –by Raymond Chandler.

Muscular, tough and often funny story that takes you in into the fictional world of Bay City (Santa Monica) and Gray Lake (Silverlake). The book provides a great peepshow into a 1930’s unsentimental world of a private detective, bad cops, secretaries wearing nylons, men wearing hats, uppers and downers, loneliness, violence and despair.

Did anyone find out whether Chandler and Wodehouse had the same English teacher at Dulwich College?

CHILD 44 – by Tom Rob Smith

A serious thriller set in Stalin’s Russia. Partly based on a true story this is beautifully written novel is disturbingly compulsive and something to keep you up all night. Makes one think about what Russian people have had to endure over the last eighty years.

FILMS

Three recent films I would strongly recommend are:

  • FISH TANK- directed by ANDREA ARNOLD
  • SIN NOMBRE- directed by GARY FUKUNAGA
  • MID AUGUST LUNCH- directed by GIANNI DI GREGORIO

All three films are beautifully made and are totally different from the others. One set in Essex, England, one in Mexico and one in Rome.  See them on DVD, if they are not at your local cinema but please see them. Should any one of these directors feel inclined to direct TAKING LEAVE… we of nine monthly updated web sites would be honoured and delighted.

HBO EUROPE

An appeal to the owners of Home Box Office Inc to create a European based broadcasting network.  To fund, make and broadcast film and television material in Europe.  Run the network on a subscription basis where viewers could see new movies and television drama no longer being made by British broadcasters. A channel that could show movies from all over the world, uncut versions of films such as Revolutionary Roadand US TV shows such as Weeds and John Adams.
Begin it now, please.

FRIENDS OF ECCO

Grave news (well, nearly.). Plans for the greatest state funeral since that of Queen Boadicea were nearly set in motion recently.

To summarise, having breakfasted on minced quail and Weetabix, Ecco was chauffeur driven to Cattersea Park for her morning constitutional. As per tradition, once inside, 99% of other dogs and their human owners bowed, nodded or curtseyed as she trotted past. The sun was shining, the air full of resplendent dog smells, another perfect dog day morning… until suddenly… a slobbering white Staffordshire Bull Terrier shot out from beneath a park bench, pinned Ecco to the ground and sank its teeth into her neck and wouldn’t let go. Blood, fur, yelps, and barking accompanied by Mrs Thomas’s screaming replaced the tranquillity of Cattersea Park. The owner of the Staff tried to pull his dog away from Ecco, so did a distraught Mrs Thomas, other brave souls tried, but still the bull terrier’s teeth sunk even deeper into Ecco’s neck, blood now spurting like a children’s playground fountain. A swat team in a helicopter arrived overhead, a man shouted through megaphones but the Staff remained firm in its wish to terminate Ecco. Something had to be done, before it was too late! Just then a ghostly figure of a large black cat ambled up to the psycho dog and sank both sets of front claws into the dog’s nether regions. The effect was instantaneous. The dog yelped a high pitch scream, released Ecco from its jaws and charged off at high speed after the athletic cat…

Ecco was air lifted to a private clinic in Chelsea and given emergency surgery. After nine and a half weeks of recuperation she was able to return home to celebrate her thirteenth birthday. Mrs Thomas shed a tear of relief and took herself of to Moscow to see Patrick Barlow’s ‘The 39 Steps.’ Meanwhile many other people are wondering just who that brave black cat is…

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